January 3, 2021 Service
Why Are the Magi Important?
      • Isaiah 60:1–6HCSB

  • Welcome to the 10th Day of Christmas!

    If you only notice the 12 days of Christmas on sales fliers and email promotions, then you might have thought that the 12 days of Christmas were a countdown to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But if you’ve reminded yourselves about what I share most years, you know that Christmas day is the first day of Christmas, and January 5 is the 12th day of Christmas.
    So if the delivery service rings the bell today, stay out of the way of the 10 Lords-a-Leaping. And all that other stuff.
    Of course, I’m not all about the words to a silly song that was first published 240 years ago. I’m about the significance of what the Bible shows us about the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the events surrounding that day. His birthday was probably not in December or January, but that’s not my point for today anyway.
    I hope to answer the title I gave for today:

    Why Are the Magi Important?

    Matthew’s Gospel is the only mention of the the Magi coming with gifts to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem, to honor the new King of the Jews. It is also the only gospel that says anything about the family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus escaping to Egypt before Herod goes completely off his rocker.
    Here’s the story from Matthew chapter 2:
    Matthew 2:1–2 ESV
    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
    Matthew 2:3–4 ESV
    3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
    Matthew 2:5–6 ESV
    5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
    Matthew 2:7–8 ESV
    7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
    Matthew 2:9–10 ESV
    9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
    Matthew 2:11–12 ESV
    11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
    Matthew 2:13 ESV
    13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
    Matthew 2:14–15 ESV
    14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
    Matthew 2:16 ESV
    16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
    Matthew 2:17–18 ESV
    17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
    I will leave out the last verses of Matthew 2 that tells of Joseph bringing his family home to Nazareth for today.
    >>>So let’s get to the focus of the sermon today Why Are the Magi Important? That question begins with. . .

    Who Where the Wise Men?

    This needs to be a question that is NOT answered on the basis of Christmas plays or Nativity scenes.
    How many of you have a nativity scene, or creche, that includes the “3 Kings” along with their camels, some sheep, a cow or two, and an outdoor shelter with a straw-filled manger bed, a star, and shepherds?
    Well, there is so much that is factually wrong about that.
    The only things correct in those scenes we are so used to are the fact that Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus had a humble start with a feeding trough, or manger, standing in for a bassinet.
    The manger was probably carved out of limestone, not built of wood. It might have been part of a wall in a two-room home, with the family’s animals on one side and the people on the other. Or, on the ground floor of a 2-story home with the humans upstairs and the animals they kept for milk, eggs, meat and sacrifice below.
    In Luke, there is no star or wise men, but there were shepherds who showed up after the baby was born, because the angels told them to find the newborn savior still bound in the swaddles that provided some comfort outside of the mother’s womb.
    Here in Matthew, there are no mentions of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, in fact no shepherds at all. There is no mention of a census as the reason for Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace. There is no mention of the manger. The Magi, or Wise Men are the protagonists in Mathew’s gospel. That’s what we want to explore.
    I use the term Magi more than Wise Men when I speak of these guys; but most English versions translate the Greek word magoi as Wise Men, in other words, the sages and scholars of a well-studied, priestly class.
    These wise guys showed up sometime before Jesus was 2 years old. And they came to a house in Bethlehem, not a stable. They showed up on their own, without shepherds or livestock, although a few camels make sense. And we don’t know how many came. The record in Matthew just tells us there were more than one.
    The Biblical Greek word in Matthew 2:1 is “magoi” which is plural and can mean magicians or scholars. We know they were from the East. The most likely place is modern Iran, because the first Magi we read about in Daniel were from Media.
    They studied the skies, not as astronomers but as astrologers, to find meaning in the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. They didn’t know that there were other planets, although they gave special names to the wandering stars in the sky.
    So the Wise Men were Magi from Medea. Astronomers, scholars, and perhaps priests of the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. That’s who they were. So why are they important to us, besides the fact that they show up in Matthew’s Gospel?
    It’s really about the whole story we have in Matthew chapter 2. That’s why I read it all at once, because I want to look at some of the unique things we have here to dig out a bit of the meanings.
    >>>First, lets think about why the Star of Bethlehem is part of this story. I don’t think about it as a guiding light so much as it is showing us something about God’s love for the world and the salvation Jesus brings. I think that . . .

    The Star Shows The Birth of Jesus Is World-Changing

    God doesn’t put signs in the heaven for no reason. The magic of the movements of the lights in the sky, if you are somewhere the sky is dark enough to see, can keep you interested for decades.
    And it takes that long to chart the regular and the irregular movements of the stars, the planets, and to identify new things like a super-nova explosion of a star some billions of years ago that lights up the night sky brighter than anything but the moon for a short time.
    Or to try to find the meaning of a comet or of shooting stars, solar or lunar eclipses. You know, all those things.
    So when a light in the sky appears as a harbinger of good things, like the birth of the Son of God to be the king of the Jews, the Magi were ready to take notice.
    And the only reason for this to be a stellar event instead of a written prophecy is to show that what is about to happen will effect the whole world.
    Jesus is the World Changer. And he wants you to experience him as he changes your world.

    The Visit of the Magi Show The Birth Of Jesus Is For All People

    The Magi are the first non-Jews or Gentiles to come to worship Jesus. Which is almost surprising, coming from Matthew. He is constantly showing how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures, and the Magi don’t have much voice there.
    Yet, Matthew found this was a good place to put the quotation from the Prophet Micah, from Micah 5:2, that the new King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem.
    So these Gentile magicians, or scholars of what was secret, are led to the place where Jesus was a toddler, to bring their gifts.

    The Dreams Show God Influences All Who Will Listen

    God sends visions, dreams, and special encounters to those who listen, not to those who cast him off.

    God Is Active In The Lives Of Joseph and Mary, and Even the Magi

    To the Magi, get out of town a different way.
    To Joseph and Mary, get out of Herod’s reach

    The Birth Of Jesus Threatens The Status Quo

    When God shows up, things change.

    The Actions Of Herod

    Show That Satan Uses Anyone Who Is Against God for Evil

    Herod tops the list of rotten rulers in Jerusalem.
    He got his appointment from Augustus Caesar, was married to one of Caesar’s relatives, and learned how to be vicious from the actions of the Roman Emperors of his day.

    Evil Has No Conscience

    Not just is securing his throne from his family, but in the brutal and senseless murder of the toddlers and infants in and around Bethlehem.

    The Gifts Of The Magi Have Meaning

    Gold for Royalty

    Frankincense for Deity

    Myrrh for Sacrifice

    The Magi Are Important Because

    They show us God uses even his heavens to speak to us

    They show us that Jesus is the Savior for all the world

    They show us that without God, evil will run rampant

    They show us that God lets even the Magi know that Jesus is Royalty, Jesus is Deity, and Jesus is our Sacrifice for Sin

    Will You Experience The World Changer, Jesus Christ, Once More?

      • Matthew 2:1–2ESV

      • Matthew 2:3–4ESV

      • Matthew 2:5–6ESV

      • Matthew 2:7–8ESV

      • Matthew 2:9–10ESV

      • Matthew 2:11–12ESV

      • Matthew 2:13ESV

      • Matthew 2:14–15ESV

      • Matthew 2:16ESV

      • Matthew 2:17–18ESV

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